Drenica RegionDrenica is a hilly region in central Kosovo inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Albanians. The inhabitants of the region have a tradition of strong resistance to outside powers, dating back to Turkish rule in the Balkans. By 1997, Albanians had begun to refer to Drenica as "liberated territory" because of the local KLA presence. The government considered Drenica a hotbed of "Albanian terrorism."
Glogovac (Gllogofc) and Srbica (Skenderaj) Municipalities
The region, flanked by the Drenica mountains on the west, consists of the municipalities of Glogovac (Gllogofc) and Srbica (Skenderaj). The towns of Glogovac and Srbica are the respective municipal capitals and major population centers of each municipality. Prior to 1998, both municipalities had an almost entirely Albanian population. The villages that surround the two towns are the birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which began armed operations in Drenica in 1996. They are also the scene of some of the worst abuses against civilians in Kosovo.1
In operations that began in January 1998, Serbian special police raided villages in Drenica linked to the KLA. Between January and March, police launched multiple military-style attacks on the villages of Donje Prekaz, Likosane, and Cirez using armored personnel carriers and a helicopter.2 The attacks, and the fighting that ensued, left eighty-three villagers dead, including at least twenty-four women and children, and helped to crystallize armed opposition to Belgrade's rule. In May, an estimated 300 special police forces attacked the village of Novi Poklek (Poklek i Ri), a suburb of the town of Glogovac. Ten Albanians were detained during the attack; one of them was later found dead, while the nine others remain missing.3
Low intensity conflict between government forces-the Serbian police-and the KLA continued until September 1998, when the deaths of fourteen policemen in a gun battle provoked multiple reprisal killings of civilians from the villages of Gornje Obrinje and Golubovac and the detention and abuse of hundreds of Albanian men in Glogovac police station.4 The deployment of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission reduced but did not eliminate abuses against civilians in police raids on villages in the region or the resulting displacement of civilians, which continued throughout the winter.
The withdrawal of the KVM in March 1999 signaled an intensification of Serbian police and military activities in Drenica. Any restraint imposed by the presence of international monitors was now removed. Three months of terror followed, as Serbian police and paramilitaries backed by the army attacked and cleared of its civilian population village after village in its efforts to destroy both the KLA and its base of support. Adult males were detained en masse and hundreds were executed. Killings were not confined to persons regarded as potential combatants. As with earlier massacres in Gornje Obrinje and Racak (Stimlje municipality), women and children from the families of persons linked to the KLA were also killed. Many of the killings occurred in the days following the NATO bombing of the Feronikel mineral plant near Glogovac on April 29, as thousands of civilians were forced onto buses and expelled from the town to the border with Macedonia.
Abuses in the Drenica region were so widespread that a comprehensive description is beyond the scope of this report. Few villages were left intact, and few families without victims.5 Instead, this chapter will concentrate on the key atrocities from the period of March to June 1999 in the villages of Izbica, Rezala, Poklek, and Staro Cikatovo; the major offensive in the area of Vrbovac, Stutica, and Baks that followed the NATO bombing of the Feronikel mineral plant on April 29 and its bloody aftermath; and the forcible expulsion of thousands of people from Glogovac, the region's largest town during the first week of May.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH INTERVIEWED ALMOST A DOZEN WITNESSES TO THE EVENTS IN IZBICA ON MARCH 28, 1999. THEIR TESTIMONIES, COUPLED WITH NATO SATELLITE IMAGERY AND VIDEO FOOTAGE PRODUCED BY KOSOVAR ALBANIANS, DOCUMENT ONE OF THE LARGEST MASSACRES OF THE KOSOVO CONFLICT. THE EXACT NUMBER OF ETHNIC ALBANIAN VICTIMS REMAINS UNKNOWN, ALTHOUGH VILLAGERS WHO BURIED THE DEAD REPORTED COUNTING BETWEEN 146 AND 166 BODIES. THE KILLINGS WERE CITED IN THE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL'S INDICTMENT OF SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, AND OTHERS, MADE PUBLIC ON MAY 27, 1999.6
SET BENEATH THE MOUNTAINS AND A HALF HOUR FROM THE NEAREST SERB VILLAGE, IZBICA WAS CONSIDERED A SAFE PLACE FOR ALBANIANS FROM NEIGHBORING AREAS TO TAKE REFUGE, IN PART BECAUSE OF THE KLA PRESENCE IN AND AROUND THE VILLAGE. BY MARCH 27, THOUSANDS OF ETHNIC ALBANIANS FROM THE AREA HAD GATHERED IN IZBICA. MOST HAD COME AFTER NATO STARTED BOMBING, WHEN GOVERNMENT FORCES BEGAN TO SHELL THE SURROUNDING AREA.7
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, THE SHELLING OF IZBICA BEGAN DURING THE NIGHT OF MARCH 27, AND A GROUP OF AT LEAST FIFTY SOLDIERS, POLICE, AND PARAMILITARIES ENTERED THE VILLAGE THAT EVENING. NEARLY ALL OF THE ADULT MEN FLED TO THE MOUNTAINS, LEAVING MOSTLY WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND OLD MEN IN THE VILLAGE ON MARCH 28. H.D., A FORTY-YEAR-OLD MAN FROM BROCNA (BUROJE), NEAR IZBICA, RECOUNTED:
AT LEAST 30,000 PEOPLE WERE CROWDED IN IZBICA THAT DAY. UNFORTUNATELY, WE BELIEVED THAT THE WOMEN AND OLD MEN WOULD NOT BE HARMED, WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE WRONG. THERE WAS SHELLING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS. YOUNGER MEN, INCLUDING ME, FLED INTO THE MOUNTAINS IN THE MORNING. I LEFT WITH MY THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD SON AT ABOUT 10 AM. WE HAD BROUGHT OUR FAMILY TO IZBICA THE MORNING OF THE PREVIOUS DAY. WE HAD STAYED OVERNIGHT IN A FIELD IN THE OPEN AIR THERE. I WAS SO TIRED THAT THE SHELLING DIDN'T EVEN WAKE ME UP, BUT MY WIFE WOKE ME UP BECAUSE OF IT AT AROUND 9 AM. SO WE FLED INTO THE MOUNTAINS. THE SHELLING CAME CLOSER, AND SO DID THE SERBS. I WAS ABOUT 200 METERS AWAY, IN THE MOUNTAINS, TRYING TO WATCH. THE SERBS CAME CLOSE TO OUR FAMILIES. OUR FAMILIES WERE HUDDLED IN THE MIDST OF THEIR TRACTORS AND CARS; THE SERBS BURNT ALL THIS. I COULDN'T SEE IT, BUT I COULD HEAR THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN CRYING. WE DIDN'T DARE MOVE TO SEE WHAT WAS HAPPENING; WE KNEW WE COULD BE KILLED BY SNIPERS.8
VILLAGERS LEFT THEIR HOUSES TO CONGREGATE IN THE FIELD IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF MARCH 28, AS THE SHELLING CONTINUED. S.E., A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD WOMAN FROM IZBICA WHOSE FATHER, UNCLE, AND COUSIN WERE KILLED, TOLD HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:
WHEN WE SAW THE SERBS COMING WE DIDN'T DARE STAY IN OUR HOUSES. WE WENT BY TRACTOR TO A NEARBY FIELD (ABOUT 500 METERS FROM THE VILLAGE)-ME, MY MOTHER AND FATHER, MY BROTHER, MY SISTER, HER FAMILY, AND HER MOTHER-IN-LAW-A TOTAL OF TEN PEOPLE. WE JOINED THE REST OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE VILLAGE IN THE FIELD, ALL OF THE OTHER FAMILIES. FAMILIES HAD STARTED LEAVING THEIR HOUSES AT ABOUT 4 A.M. BY 10 A.M. EVERYONE WAS IN THE FIELD. THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, ALMOST ALL WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND OLD PEOPLE. ONLY ABOUT 150 MEN WERE AMONG US.
AT THE FIELD, EVERYONE GOT OFF THEIR TRACTORS AND HUDDLED TOGETHER. WE HAD CHOSEN THE FIELD BECAUSE WE WANTED TO BE TOGETHER. WE WERE TOO SCARED TO STAY ALONE IN OUR HOUSES; IT WOULD BE TOO EASY FOR THE SERBS TO KILL US THERE. FROM THE FIELD, WE COULD SEE THE SERBS SETTING OUR HOUSES ON FIRE. THEY WERE SHOOTING IN THE AIR AND YELLING LOUDLY: INSULTING US AND SCARING THE CHILDREN. 9
TWO WOMEN WHO ENCOUNTERED THE SERB FORCES THAT DAY SAID THAT THE MEN WORE BOTH CAMOUFLAGE AND DARK BLUE OR BLACK UNIFORMS, AND CARRIED LONG KNIVES. BOTH WOMEN RECALLED THAT SOME MEN WORE DARK SKI MASKS AND OTHERS HAD THEIR FACES BLACKENED WITH GREASEPAINT.10 ANOTHER WOMAN REPORTED THAT SEVERAL OF THE PARAMILITARY MEN HAD BEEN RECOGNIZED AS LOCAL POLICE OFFICERS.11
AT AROUND 10 A.M., THE GROUP OF SERBS REPORTEDLY SWEPT THROUGH THE VILLAGE, FORCING THE FEW REMAINING INHABITANTS TO FLEE. THOSE WHO WERE UNABLE TO LEAVE WERE KILLED. S.E.'S SISTER, WHO RETURNED TO IZBICA THREE DAYS AFTER THE MASSACRE, REPORTED:
ON MARCH 28, THE DAY OF THE MASSACRE, THE SERBS SET SHABAN REXHEPI, AGE NINETY, ON FIRE. HE HAD BEEN SITTING ON A STRAW MAT NEAR HIS HOUSE; THE SERBS SET THE MAT ON FIRE. I SAW HIS BONES; THERE WAS NO FLESH LEFT ON THEM.
THE FAMILY OF A PARALYZED WOMAN PUT HER IN THE TRAILER OF A TRACTOR, WHICH WAS FULL OF MATTRESSES. THE SERBS FOUND HER AND LIT THE TRAILER ON FIRE WITH THE WOMAN INSIDE. HER NAME WAS ZYKA BAJRAMI, AGE ABOUT SEVENTY. THIS ALSO HAPPENED ON MARCH 28.12
WHEN THE SERB SECURITY FORCES ARRIVED AT THE FIELD, AT ABOUT 10 A.M., THEY THREATENED TO KILL THE VILLAGERS AND BURN THEIR TRACTORS, AND DEMANDED MONEY. S.E., WHOSE FATHER WAS LATER KILLED, TOLD HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:
THEY TOLD US, "GIVE US MONEY IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE." THEY SAID IT COST 1,000 DM TO SAVE YOUR FAMILY AND 100 DM TO SAVE YOUR TRACTOR. EVERYONE PAID, EACH MAN PAYING FOR HIS OWN FAMILY. MY FATHER PAID 1,100 DM.
AFTER THE SERBS GOT THE MONEY, THEY SHOT OUT THE TIRES OF EVERYONE'S TRACTORS, AND THEN BURNED ALL OUR BELONGINGS, WHICH WERE BUNDLED UP ON THE TRACTORS.13
ALL WITNESSES REPORTED THAT THE SERB SECURITY FORCES THEN SEPARATED THE MEN FROM THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN, EXPELLED THE WOMEN FROM THE VILLAGE, AND EXECUTED THE MEN WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS. IT WAS AROUND NOON. S.E., HER MOTHER, AND HER PARALYZED BROTHER WERE PART OF THE CONVOY THAT WAS FORCED OUT OF THE VILLAGE. SHE DESCRIBED HOW THE SERB SECURITY FORCES HARASSED THEM AND FORCED YOUNG BOYS TO RETURN TO THE FIELD:
AT ABOUT 11 A.M., THEY SEPARATED THE WOMEN FROM THE MEN. WE ASKED THEM WHY THEY WERE DOING THIS AND THEY TOLD US, IN A VERY SCARY VOICE: "SHUT UP, DON'T ASK, OTHERWISE WE'LL KILL YOU." THE CHILDREN WERE TERRIFIED. THE SERBS YELLED, "WE'LL KILL YOU AND WHERE IS THE UNITED STATES TO SAVE YOU?" ALL THE WOMEN HAD COVERED THEIR HEADS WITH HANDKERCHIEFS OUT OF FEAR OF THE SERBS, HIDING THEIR HAIR AND FOREHEADS. THE SERBS CALLED US OBSCENE THINGS, SAYING "FUCK ALL ALBANIAN MOTHERS," AND "ALL ALBANIAN WOMEN ARE BITCHES."
THEY TOOK THE MEN AWAY AND LINED THEM UP ABOUT TWENTY METERS AWAY FROM US. THEN THEY ORDERED US TO GO TO ALBANIA. THEY SAID, "YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR A GREATER ALBANIA, NOW YOU CAN GO THERE." THEY WERE SHOOTING IN THE AIR ABOVE OUR HEADS. WE FOLLOWED THEIR ORDERS AND MOVED IN THE DIRECTION WE WERE TOLD, WALKING AWAY FROM THE MEN.
ABOUT 100 METERS FROM THE PLACE WE STARTED WALKING, THE SERBS DECIDED TO SEPARATE OUT YOUNGER BOYS FROM OUR GROUP. BOYS OF FOURTEEN AND UP HAD ALREADY BEEN PLACED WITH THE MEN; NOW THEY SEPARATED OUT BOYS OF ABOUT TEN AND UP. ONLY VERY SMALL BOYS WERE LEFT WITH US, ONE OLD MAN WHO HAD LOST HIS LEGS, AND MY HANDICAPPED BROTHER, WHO CAN'T WALK BECAUSE OF SPINAL MENINGITIS.
SO THEY TOOK THE TEN TO FOURTEEN- YEARS-OLDS TO JOIN THE MEN. THE BOYS' MOTHERS WERE CRYING; SOME EVEN TRIED TO SPEAK TO THE SERBS, BUT THE SERBS PUSHED THEM. WE WERE WALKING AWAY VERY SLOWLY BECAUSE WE WERE SO WORRIED ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO OUR MEN.
WE STOPPED MOVING WHEN WE HEARD AUTOMATIC WEAPON FIRE. WE TURNED OUR HEADS TO SEE WHAT WAS HAPPENING BUT IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO SEE THE MEN. WE SAW THE TEN TO FOURTEEN-YEARS-OLDS RUNNING IN OUR DIRECTION; WHEN THEY GOT TO US WE ASKED THEM WHAT WAS HAPPENING. THEY WERE VERY UPSET; NO ONE COULD TALK. ONE OF THEM FINALLY TOLD US, "THEY RELEASED US BUT THE OTHERS ARE FINISHED."
WE STAYED IN THE SAME PLACE FOR SOME TWENTY MINUTES. EVERYONE WAS CRYING. THE AUTOMATIC WEAPON FIRE WENT ON NON-STOP FOR A FEW MINUTES; AFTER THAT WE HEARD SHORT, IRREGULAR BURSTS OF FIRE FOR SOME TEN MINUTES OR SO.
THEN TEN SERBS CAUGHT UP WITH US. THEY SAID LOTS OF OBSCENITIES AND AGAIN TOLD US, "NOW YOU MUST LEAVE FOR ALBANIA-DON'T STOP, JUST GO." WE HAD TO LEAVE.14
HER ACCOUNT WAS CORROBORATED BY A THIRTY-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, INTERVIEWED SEPARATELY, WHOSE HUSBAND AND SON SURVIVED BY HIDING IN THE MOUNTAINS.
IN THE FIELD WE CROWDED TOGETHER IN A TIGHT CIRCLE. THE MEN WERE SEPARATED FROM THE WOMEN, AND WERE LED AWAY. THEN THEY TOLD US TO GO TO THE ASPHALT ROAD. WE HEARD THE SOUND OF SHOOTING, BUT I MYSELF COULDN'T SEE ANYTHING. IT HAPPENED AT ABOUT WHEN THE CONVOY REACHED THE MAIN ROAD, ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES AFTER WE LEFT THE MEN. WE UNDERSTOOD THAT OUR MEN HAD BEEN KILLED FROM THOSE WOMEN AT THE BACK OF THE CONVOY: WORD SPREAD THROUGH THE _CONVOY.15
DURING THE FOLLOWING SEVERAL DAYS, MEN BEGAN TO COME DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAINS AND SEVERAL OF THE WOMEN WHO HAD BEEN FORCED OUT OF THE VILLAGE RETURNED IN SEARCH OF RELATIVES. IN THE FIELD WHERE THE MASSACRE TOOK PLACE, THEY FOUND, BY ALL ACCOUNTS, FOUR GROUPS OF MEN WHO HAD BEEN SHOT. THREE GROUPS WERE IN THE FIELD, AND ONE SMALLER GROUP WAS BEYOND THE FIELD, NEAR THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN. MEN WHO BURIED THE VICTIMS REPORTED THAT MOST OF THE BODIES HAD A BULLET THROUGH THE SIDE OF THE HEAD. SOME BODIES WERE BADLY MUTILATED.
H.D., WHO HID IN THE MOUNTAINS WITH HIS SON DURING THE MASSACRE, WAS AMONG THE FIRST TO DISCOVER THE BODIES.
ON THE FOURTH DAY, UNFORTUNATELY, I RETURNED TO IZBICA. I SAY UNFORTUNATELY BECAUSE I WOULD RATHER NOT HAVE SEEN WHAT I SAW. IT WAS A TERRIBLE MASSACRE. I SAW MY UNCLE, WHO HAD BEEN EXECUTED BY THE SERBS. I SAW ONE OF MY AUNTS; SHE HAD BEEN BURNED IN HER GARDEN. I SAW MANY MORE DEAD. THE TOTAL NUMBER OF PEOPLE KILLED WAS 150. MOST OF THE MEN WERE ELDERLY. A COUSIN OF MINE WAS OVER NINETY.
I WAS AMONG THE FIRST TO FIND THE BODIES. WHEN WE CAME DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN, WE FOUND THE FIRST GROUP OF DEAD BODIES IN A PASTURE AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN. THERE WERE THREE SEPARATE GROUPS OF DEAD BODIES IN THE FIELD, THE MEN WHO HAD BEEN SEPARATED FROM THE WOMEN, AND A FEW BODIES IN THE MOUNTAIN. THE SECOND GROUP WAS JUST BEYOND A STREAM OF WATER. I MYSELF HAD HEARD THE SOUND OF AUTOMATIC WEAPON FIRE WHEN THEY WERE KILLED. WHEN I HEARD THE BURST OF FIRE, I SAID, "OH MY GOD, THEY'VE KILLED THEM ALL." IT WAS AT MIDDAY.16
ANOTHER MAN FROM IZBICA, FIFTY-TWO YEARS OLD, ALSO HID IN THE MOUNTAINS AND RETURNED TO LOOK FOR HIS BROTHER. HIS DESCRIPTION MATCHES THOSE OF THE OTHER WITNESSES TO THE SITE.
THE FIRST GROUP WAS ABOUT 200 METERS FROM THE TRACTORS, ABOVE THE HOUSES AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN. WE SAW A GROUP NEAR A SMALL STREAM, ABOUT TWENTY TO TWENTY-FIVE METERS FROM THE PREVIOUS GROUP; THIS GROUP INCLUDED MY BROTHER. THERE WERE ABOUT TWENTY-THREE PEOPLE IN THIS GROUP.
THE GROUP WITH MY BROTHER INCLUDED MANY BODIES IN BAD CONDITION. YOU COULDN'T RECOGNIZE SOME OF THEM. YOU COULD ONLY RECOGNIZE THE EARS OF ONE MAN: THE UPPER PART OF HIS HEAD HAD DISAPPEARED. MOST OF THEM HAD BEEN SHOT IN THE HEAD. MOST HAD SMALL HOLES ON ONE SIDE OF THEIR HEADS, WHILE THE OTHER SIDE WAS COMPLETELY DESTROYED.17
THE TESTIMONY OF A SURVIVOR OF THE MASSACRE, PUBLISHED BY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, CORROBORATED THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SITE GATHERED BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH. THE SURVIVOR RECOUNTED THAT THE MEN WERE DIVIDED INTO GROUPS, LED TO DIFFERENT AREAS, AND LINED UP FACING AWAY FROM THE SOLDIERS. SERB FORCES SHOT THEM FROM BEHIND WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, AND THE MAN WAS ABLE TO SURVIVE BY FEIGNING DEATH.18 WITNESSES INTERVIEWED BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CLAIMED TO KNOW OF BETWEEN SIX AND SIXTEEN MEN WHO HAD SURVIVED THE EXECUTION.
VILLAGERS WHO RETURNED TO IZBICA SET ABOUT THE TASK OF BURYING THE VICTIMS. ACCORDING TO THE PARTICIPANTS INTERVIEWED BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, BETWEEN SIXTY AND EIGHTY PEOPLE BURIED THE BODIES IN THE FIELD IN THREE ROWS. THE GRAVES WERE SHALLOW, APPROXIMATELY SIXTY TO NINETY CENTIMETERS DEEP, BECAUSE THE VILLAGERS WERE TIRED AND WORKING QUICKLY. THE NAME OF EACH VICTIM, WHEN IDENTIFIABLE, WAS RECORDED ON STONES NEAR THE GRAVES AND ON A MASTER LIST.
ONE MAN BURIED HIS BROTHER, A VICTIM OF THE MASSACRE, AND HIS BROTHER'S WIFE AND DAUGHTER, WHO WERE KILLED IN A TRACTOR ACCIDENT AS THE FAMILIES WERE DRIVING TO THE FIELD ON MARCH 28.
. . . [W]E ORGANIZED A COUNCIL OF MEN TO DECIDE HOW AND WHEN TO BURY THE BODIES. WE STARTED DIGGING GRAVES THE NEXT DAY, SIXTY TO EIGHTY OF US. ALL OF US HAD BEEN HIDING IN VARIOUS LOCAL MOUNTAINS. IT TOOK US ALL DAY TO DIG THE GRAVES. FOUR OR FIVE BODIES WERE LEFT UNBURIED THAT DAY BECAUSE THERE WASN'T TIME. ALL DAY WE TRIED TO FIND FLAT PIECES OF STONE TO WRITE THE NAMES OF THE DEAD ON. WE BURIED THEM ABOUT NINETY CENTIMETERS DEEP.
I SAW ALL THE BODIES WHEN THEY WERE BROUGHT TOGETHER. THERE WERE 156 OR 157 OF THEM. THE COUNCIL MADE A LIST OF THE DEAD. EACH DEAD PERSON HAS A NUMBER THAT CORRESPONDS TO THE NUMBER ON THE GRAVE.19
A WOMAN FROM IZBICA WHO RETURNED TO THE VILLAGE ON MARCH 31 AND ASSISTED IN THE BURIALS TOLD HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:
I SAW MY FATHER DEAD. THE FAMILIES HAD BROUGHT THE BODIES TO THE VILLAGE FROM THE MOUNTAIN WHERE THEY WERE KILLED, LESS THAN A KILOMETER AWAY. MY HUSBAND AND NEPHEW CARRIED MY FATHER.
I SAW ALL THE BODIES. WE COUNTED THEM. IT WAS HORRIBLE. THEY HAD BEEN BROUGHT TO A FIELD AND PLACED IN THREE ROWS. THEY WERE BURIED IN THREE ROWS. RELATIVES OF THE DEAD WERE THERE, MOSTLY MEN. EACH FAMILY BURIED THEIR DEAD. EACH FAMILY OPENED UP THE GRAVES. THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE THERE. THE GRAVES WERE VERY SHALLOW. WE HAD TO BURY THEM FAST.20
IN MAY 1999, CNN AIRED VIDEO FOOTAGE THAT A KOSOVAR ALBANIAN, DR. LIRI LOSHI, CLAIMED WAS TAKEN AT THE SCENE OF THE IZBICA MASSACRE. THE FOOTAGE SHOWS A LARGE NUMBER OF BLOODY CORPSES IN CIVILIAN CLOTHING-ETHNIC ALBANIANS WHO THE DOCTOR CLAIMED WERE KILLED IN THE MASSACRE. TWO WITNESSES WHO HELPED BURY THE DEAD REPORTED INDEPENDENTLY TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH THAT TWO LOCAL VILLAGERS HAD FILMED THE SITE, AND BOTH IDENTIFIED THE MAN WHO THEN GAVE THE VIDEO FOOTAGE TO DR. LOSHI.21
NATO SATELLITE IMAGES TAKEN ON APRIL 15, 1999, AND RELEASED TWO DAYS LATER APPEARED TO CONFIRM THE THREE ROWS OF GRAVES IN THE IZBICA FIELD, HOLDING WHAT NATO BELIEVED WAS "UP TO 150 GRAVES."22 NATO COMPARED THE PHOTOGRAPH TO A MARCH 9, 1999, SATELLITE IMAGE OF THE SAME FIELD THAT SHOWED NO SIGNS OF DISTURBED EARTH.
THE WITNESS CITED ABOVE, H.D., INTERVIEWED BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ON JUNE 9, 1999, CLAIMED THAT SERBIAN FORCES RETURNED TO IZBICA IN THE FIRST DAYS OF JUNE TO DIG UP THE BODIES AND BULLDOZE THE FIELD, ALTHOUGH HE DID NOT OBSERVE THIS HIMSELF.23 THE ICTY INVESTIGATED THE SITE IN JULY 1999, WITH 142 GRAVES REPORTED, BUT WAS UNABLE TO FIND ANY OF THE BODIES.24
The village of Rezala is located in the southern part of Srbica municipality, close to the Drenica mountains. It is not clear whether the village had strong links with the KLA. The village was reportedly the scene of clashes between Serbian security forces and the KLA on May 15.25 Whatever the motive, Serbian forces entered the village on April 5 early in the morning, entered and burned houses, ordering the population outside. Most of the men from the village were in the hills at the time, but according to witnesses, the eighty-three men who were present were detained together with women and children. Some of the men were from the nearby village of Morina. One of two remaining survivors, X.X. (initials changed), a sixteen-year-old boy, explained how the villagers were detained:
Early in the morning they [Serbian police] surrounded the village-they were shooting from all sides. Then they came inside the village-into every house. They took us outside the house. After they took us outside they set fire to the houses. They told us to walk towards a hill, saying to us, "you can go to [Hashim]Thaci or Clinton." [Then] they took us into the yard of [H.D.'s] house. They kept us there from 11 to 5 p.m. They separated the men from age fourteen to fifty and beat us-they tied our hands behind our backs. 26
The testimony of sixty-year-old M.D., the other remaining survivor, suggests that although men were questioned during the course of the day, the decision to kill them had been made in advance:
When they took us in the yard they started to check us. They told us to take everything we had out of our pockets. We were all kinds of people-old men, blind men, young men. There was a thirteen-year-old boy and they shot him [with everyone else]. When we were surrounded they were asking us [questions]. We heard when they said `is it enough so we can kill them now?'27
Serbian police appear to have gone to considerable lengths to create a pretext for the killings. X.X. said that one group of Serbian forces fired toward the village while others told their Albanian captives that the shots were coming from the KLA. Since the killings were intended to leave no survivors, it is possible that the Serbian police hoped to be able to characterize the deaths as being the result of crossfire or accidental fire from the KLA rather than deliberate murder. According to M.D., "sometimes when we were standing in the yard they were shooting. They were saying that our army was shooting at us."28 Whatever Serbian forces hoped to achieve, the survival of X.X. and M.D. leaves no doubt as to the actual cause of death for the villagers of Rezala. At around 5 p.m., the men were ordered to line up in pairs. X.X. continued his testimony:
At 5 p.m. another group of police came from Marina [village]. Those that were with us there went to another side [of the village] toward Likovac [village]. The [police] who went [toward] . . . Likovac started shooting and the others were telling us that the KLA were shooting at us. Then they took the women and children in the direction of Likovac and sent them to Srbica. One man there who was blind was trying to take his thirteen-year-old son away, but they brought him back and were beating him. They told us to get in line two by two. They took us down to the road to Likovac [Likofc]. Then they brought some others-three or four of them-from some houses. . . . After [the police] brought these men they started to prepare their guns. One of them went to the roof of the house of [H.D.]. There were about thirty police there with us. The one who was on the roof was the first one to shoot. Then the others started to shoot. I was wounded with three bullets. They were shooting for half an hour. Then after that another one came closer and started to shoot with an automatic. When he came close to me he didn't have any bullets. When he came back from reloading he went somewhere else and fortunately didn't shoot me. Then they took the trucks and tractors and started to drive away. I stayed there for two hours because I was afraid to move. 29
Like X.X., M.D. survived by playing dead. He explained, "They told us to walk to the left. We walked about 100 meters. The police were hiding behind the tractors. I didn't see anything after that-I just found myself wounded."30 Initially, there were four survivors. In addition to M.D. and X.X., fifty-year-old Sadri Gashi, and sixty-eight-year-old Pajazit Khelmendi were both alive after the killings. Neither man survived for long. According to M.D., Sadri Gashi was captured ten days later together with his brother and killed. Pajazit Khelmendi died of his wounds four days after the massacre. M.D. and X.X. are the sole remaining survivors. For M.D., whose brother was killed in the massacre, relief at survival is shaded with loss: "When I woke up from that place and the other people were dead, I thought, `these people are lucky, because I don't know anything about my family.' I don't know how I survived-I was with them-together with them."31
The horror of Rezala did not end with the killings. Information from KLA fighters suggests that in late May, the bodies were dug up with bulldozers from the shallow graves in the field.32 It appears that the human remains in the graves were replaced with the carcasses of dead cows. Journalists visiting the site in June confirmed that the top layer of the graves contained animal remains. M.D. believed that the bodies of the villagers lie below those of the animals, although none were found by ICTY investigators. His frustration is evident: "People are saying that they took the bodies away but I am not satisfied that that's what happened. . . . Everyone wants to find the body of their father, the body of their son. We know that they are not going to live again but we just want to know where they are."33 The present location of the bodies is unknown.
Poklek is a relatively wealthy village with two parts-old and new-located on the outskirts of Glogovac. The KLA had been active in and around the area since at least March 1998. The village also suffered a fair amount of damage, as well as human rights violations, throughout that year. A damage assessment conducted for the European Union by the International Management Group in January 1999 determined that 40 percent of New Poklek's (Novi Poklek, or Poklek i Ri) seventy houses had been damaged, while 47.6 percent of the 164 homes in Old Poklek (Stari Poklek, or Poklek e Vjeter) had been damaged.34
The most serious human rights violation during 1998 took place on May 31 when an estimated 300 special police forces attacked Novi Poklek. Ten local ethnic Albanians were seized that day during the attack; one of them (Ardian Deliu) was later found dead, while the nine others have never been found.35 Poklek remained a dangerous place up until March 1999 because of the presence of Serbian forces in the nearby Feronikel plant. Many villagers had moved to Glogovac or to the neighboring village of Vasiljevo a few kilometers away. A Human Rights Watch researcher visited Vasiljevo in June 1998 and observed a KLA checkpoint and other forces.
None of the abuses that took place in and around Poklek throughout 1998 compare to what happened on Saturday, April 17, 1999, in the old part of the village. According to numerous testimonies, including one survivor, at least forty-seven people were forced into one room and systematically gunned down. The precise number of dead is unknown, although it is certain that twenty-three children under the age of fifteen died in the attack.36
A Human Rights Watch researcher visited the site of the killings-the house of Sinan Muqolli-on June 25, 1999. The house had been largely burned, which was consistent with witness testimony. The room where the killings took place had bullet marks in the walls and bullet casings from a large-caliber weapon on the floor. The basement below the room had dried blood stains dripping from the ceiling and walls, and a large pool of dried blood on the floor. Surviving family members displayed a cardboard box containing some of the bones they said were collected from the room and showed the nearby well where they claimed some of the bodies had been dumped.
Human Rights Watch first heard about the Poklek killing on May 8 from a member of the Muqolli family, F.M., who was in the Cegrane refugee camp in Macedonia. The thirty-nine-year-old woman told Human Rights Watch that the police had attacked Poklek on April 17, a rainy day, around 6:00 a.m. She said:
The police were first based in the Gorani family compound. The massacre took place about 150 meters from there. At 8:30 a.m. the shooting began. We were running away in a field toward Glogovac. Sometimes we stopped for the group to gather. The police were in a Zastava 101, white jeeps, and a grey Niva. We made it finally to Glogovac, but a second group behind us was blocked by the police and sent back.37
F.M. stayed in Glogovac for eight days before going back to Poklek. When she returned to her village with a cousin, four members of the group that had been turned back eight days before told her what had happened on April 17:
They said that they went into the house of Sinan Muqolli. "You will change your clothes here," Sinan told them. "You will be safe here." The police entered and the children screamed. Sinan said, "Don't scream because they won't hurt you." The police counted sixty-four people and said, "Don't leave the house because we have counted you. If you want to save these people, then bring us four people from the UCK." Sinan said he has two sons in Germany and their wives are here. The police asked why all of these women were there. "Where are the men?" they asked.
F.M's story is supported by a fifty-five-year-old member of the Muqolli family, R.M., who was in Sinan's house and survived the attack. His detailed and damning testimony, as told to Human Rights Watch, is presented here in its entirety:
Something happened that you can see nowhere. I think it was April 17. It was Saturday. They [the police] came from the hill. They had tanks and a car. They just started to shoot. We didn't know where to go, but we tried to go to Glogovac. They saw us and came with three cars to the house there [indicates a house close to the town], and they told us, "Just go back, because nothing is going to happen in Poklek." When we came back, they started shooting in the air.
We came back and gathered together, four brothers. There were seven of us. We wanted to stay together. We stayed there all day. At about 5:00 in the evening they came. Sinan opened the door for them. They told us to get out, all of us. We went outside. They asked us, "Do you have guns?" We said no. Then they told us to go inside. We went inside. Then he [sic] called Sinan and Ymer, and he took them out and killed them. The women started to scream. I was trying to tell the women, "No, no, they are just shooting in the air."
After five minutes they came. There were a lot of us. First they just dropped a bomb, and the children and women started screaming. Then he [sic] started shooting with an automatic rifle. The rifle was firing for a long time. Then I heard someone from outside say, "Come on, leave them, they are all dead," but he saw someone alive and started to shoot again.
I heard him leave and was trying to get out. I got up and saw one of my neighbors, [H.M.], who was wounded and another woman and a daughter of [S.M.], who was wounded too. After that I was trying to help those who were wounded, because there was only me and a five-year-old child who were not wounded.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later I saw the police forces coming into this house. It's the house of my cousins. So the girls were trying to go to the village, but me and H.M. couldn't go to the village because they were watching us from Feronikel. After that, the police forces came and started to burn.
That night, when it got dark, we went out and saw that they had burned the houses, not once, but twice. We were trying to go to the village Vasiljevo. We stayed that night in Vasiljevo, and after four days we came back and found Sinan and Ymer who had been burned and thrown in the well. There are others who were killed and put in the well. They found the mother of Ymer, killed her and put her in the well. Halim was killed, and they put him in the well too. We were trying not to disturb the remains and to hide them from the police.
. . . Twenty-three or more [of those killed] were children between six and thirteen. Some old women around sixty years old [were also killed]. I lost a daughter, a three-year-old, two nephews-a three-year-old and ten-month-old-and a big daughter, twenty-one. There are thirty-four victims from the families of two of my brothers. There was a daughter of my cousin and three children and a sister-in-law.38
In response to a question about the identity of the single gunman who carried out the killings inside the house, referred to in his testimony only as "he," R.M. responded:
I didn't recognize him, but he was uniformed, like a policeman. It was the same man who told us to go outside and go back home. The same man who dropped the bodies in the well. It was one man who threw the bombs and shot. It was the same person who did all of this.
Staro Cikatovo (Cikatove e Vjeter)
THE village of staro cikatovo (cikatove e vjeter), which lies a few kilometers north-east of glogovac, had a 1991 population of 1,300, all of them ethnic albanians. The village is located close to the feronikel plant, which at times since early 1998 had served as a base of operations for serbian security forces against kla insurgents active in the area.
the kla was in and around the village throughout 1998 and 1999, and serbian forces had inflicted a fair amount of damage on staro cikatovo long before the march 1999 offensive. A u.n. Damage assessment conducted on november 2, 1998, determined that 60 percent of the village had been damaged, 20 percent of it severely.39 at the time, only ninety albanians were living in the village, mostly due to the proximity of the dangerous garrison at the feronikel plant and the ongoing clashes in the area between serbian forces and the kla.
human rights watch visited staro cikatovo on june 25, 1999. Residents said that there are 114 houses in the village. Between forty and fifty percent of the village was badly destroyed. Most houses had been burned from the inside, which indicates that they were purposefully burned rather than damaged in combat. Several structures had also been demolished by bulldozers.
according to witnesses from the village and glogovac, government attacks on staro cikatovo began on saturday, march 20, five days before the start of nato bombing, when military operations were launched from the feronikel plant against kla positions around the village. A witness from the village, a.a.,40 told human rights watch: "we were between the kla and feronikel. [Serbian forces] started grenading from feronikel to attack [kla] soldiers."41 another villager described incessant gunfire that day.
villagers told human rights watch that they had been advised by osce personnel prior to the osce's departure that "if anything happened" the villagers should relocate to glogovac. As the attacks continued on march 20, most villagers followed this advice. Most were able to reach glogovac safely, but one group, consisting of members of the extended morina family, were detained by police near the school as they tried to exit the village. One of the women from the family, b.b., told human rights watch:
in front of the school, we were stopped by the police in tanks. They took our men and put them to one side, asking them if they were soldiers. They put us in the school-women and children in one classroom and men in the other. They kept us from 7 a.m. To 3 p.m. They told us, "if a bullet is fired by the kla, we're going to kill all of you." [then the] police and military left us in the classroom and went towards the mountains, where the kla was. They were shooting from feronikel with cannons and rockets.42
by mid-afternoon, all of them were released and told to return to their homes. The following day, march 21, the serbian red cross arrived around 1 p.m. And evacuated some of the remaining women and children from the village. Many refused to leave because, they said, the serbian red cross would only take women and children, and they did not want to leave their menfolk behind. Those who were evacuated to glogovac stayed there for periods ranging between ten and twenty days before returning to staro cikatovo. In the words of one of the women evacuated by the red cross, b.b., who later returned to staro cikatovo, "we came back ten days later because half of our family had stayed."43
over the ensuing three weeks, the remaining inhabitants of staro cikatovo watched as unoccupied houses were looted by the police and paramilitaries. According to several witnesses, serbian security forces also commandeered civilian cars and tractors, which they used to move around the village. For the most part, however, the remaining residents were left undisturbed during this period, although they were frightened by the threats made during their detention in the school.
a.a., a twenty-nine-year-old woman from staro cikatovo, described to human rights watch how on or around april 14, three police officers entered the house of her uncle during the afternoon for what appeared to be a routine check. At 8 p.m. That same evening, the three men returned wearing masks made from sheets they had taken from the clothesline outside. Women and children were inside the house as well as an eighty-two-year-old man. According to a.a., who was present, "they harassed the old man, saying, `give us money or gold or we will kill you all.'" the three men demanded 500 deutsche marks. B.b., who was also present, tried to collect the money: "we said, `can we go and ask others, because we don't have any money?' so my sister went to look for money and gave them 300 deutsche marks. They also took our gold." before leaving, one of the police pointed at a one-year-old child and, according to b.b., said, "it is thanks to this small baby that you are still alive, otherwise we were going to kill all of you."
the april 14 robbery was a precursor of the horror that was to follow. In the early hours of saturday, april 17, the village was again raided by serbian forces. By the end of the day, twenty-four men from the morina family had been killed. A seventeen-year-old boy and an elderly man were forced to endure life-or-death negotiations with paramilitaries and police about whether they should be put with the men, i.e. Killed, or allowed to leave with the women and children. They were eventually allowed to go. The survivors from staro cikatovo insist that none of the dead men were involved in the kla, although several members of the family are admittedly kla soldiers, including two who were wounded in the assault.
prior to the april 17 attack, the morina family had gathered in a few houses in one part of the village for safety. According to statements from six witnesses, the houses were attacked in the early morning from four sides: "from the direction of feronikel, the school, the kla-held area and the electricity generating stations." a.a. Described what she saw:
at 6:00 a.m. A lot of shooting started. . . . We didn't go outside. We were afraid because of the shooting, and we had no idea what was happening to the neighbors. . . . At around 7 or 7:30 a.m. They came to my uncle's house. . . . When they told us to get out we saw that the yard was full of heavily armed police. We came out-men, women and children; we women came out behind the men.44
witness d.d., a mother of five children, was in another house nearby. She said:
they took a very strong action against the village at 5:30 a.m. Our children were still sleeping. There was a lot of shooting from automatic rifles and grenades. Glass from the windows and tiles from the roof were falling on us. We lay down on the floor inside our house with our children. . . . They entered the house, breaking the door and came into the rooms. They took us by our arms and forced us outside. They didn't even let us get dressed. . . .45
villagers describe a mixture of police, paramilitary and military forces in either dark blue or green camouflage uniforms and iron helmets. Some had either a red, blue, black, or yellow bandana tied onto their arms, which may have been used to cover the insignia on their uniforms or to identify troops. D.d. Claimed that she saw a tiger emblem sewn onto some uniforms and that the troops were wearing black fingerless gloves. If true, the tiger emblem might indicate the presence of arkan's tigers, the notorious paramilitary group. Witnesses also emphasized that the forces were heavily armed, with flak jackets, automatic rifles (in some cases with bayonets), and grenades.
c.c. Described how the occupants of the houses were taken outside. The men were separated from the women, he said, and lined up against the walls of the nearby houses. Since the houses were close to one another but not adjacent, the families were gathered in several groups in the village, and the evidence points to a time lapse between the operations against each of the groups. C.c. Told human rights watch:
they came to our house and shouted, "come out one by one." we came out and walked into the street. There was already another group there. The forces were all drunk and wearing iron helmets. They were all red in the face and had bandanas on their arms: red, blue, and black. We were afraid. Then that group separated us-men from women. They didn't let us talk or do anything. They were angry, out of their minds. Our mothers were grabbing us, but they were hitting them. Fathers who had children in their arms had the children taken away. My sister held my father's hand. One of them said to her, "let go of his hand, and go to your mother." she wouldn't, so they hit her in the head with a rifle butt. My father's eyes were full of tears.46
it was during this operation to empty the houses and separate men from their families that the first killing occurred. According to several relatives, the security forces caught avdil morina as he was trying to sneak his family away to safety. Avdil was stabbed in the throat and then shot dead in front of his family. B.b., who witnessed the killing, told human rights watch, "he had a big wound in his throat-they stabbed him in the neck, pushed his wife and child away, and shot him."
meanwhile, the women were being ordered to leave the village. Another witness, e.e., explained:
they brought us to the house of a neighbor. From that house they took four men. From our house they took three men-my father-in-law, his uncle, and my husband. All the men were separated on one side. My mother-in-law tried to intervene . . . But they forced us out and told us to go to glogovac. Then they took the men to a lower place. When we left on the road, they just started shooting. I didn't see whether they shot in the air or on the ground, but i heard a lot of shooting. We knew at that point that they had killed them. My mother-in-law fainted.47
despite the efforts to kill the men out of sight, one woman, witness a.a., saw eleven of the men being shot around 8 a.m. She told human rights watch:
they lined up all the men against a wall, and they directed all of us away, but i didn't go with the rest [because] my husband has only one son. Women were screaming and children were crying, but it was useless. They put the men in the yard of a neighbor, [shots were fired], and i saw them fall down. The children didn't want to go away-they were crying. After i saw them fall down i started to scream [to the others]: "hey, they killed them all!" there was a lot of shooting. . . .48
several of the male morina family members, including an elderly invalid and a young boy, did manage to escape with their lives, but only after negotiating police checkpoints and the threat of execution. The younger of the two survivors, c.c, explained what happened:
they took me too. My grandmother wouldn't let me go, but they kept screaming, "go away from here, because we are not releasing them." one police officer told me, "go" and the other put his rifle against my chest and said, "where are you going?" it happened three times. Then they talked among themselves and decided to let me go. They released my grand-_father too. After this they didn't release anyone else. . . . Then they screamed at us, "go to glogovac." but we didn't want to leave, so they started acting crazy. Then we went a little further away. They told the men to line up behind a wall. After they had lined them there-they had rifles. I didn't _see them directly, but i was five meters away. I think i saw their blood splash.49
after being sent down side streets and walking through ploughed fields, the group with c.c. And his grandfather were stopped by police outside the school, where many of them had been detained almost one month earlier. Again the fate of the two male family members was the subject of discussion. According to c.c.:
they called my grandfather, and they asked him about me. They separated me from the line so i had to go to them. They asked me, "why did they let you go? They shouldn't have let you go." my grandfather said, "the others down there released him." they searched him and said over and over again, "why did they release you?" women were crying for me, my mother, grandmother, and others. They said, "let him go, he's the only one left, and he's young." fifteen minutes later, one of them told me to go. So then we started towards glogovac.
the group was stopped again on the road to glogovac by military personnel at the feronikel plant, and faced similar questions but was eventually allowed to proceed to the town.
despite at least three subsequent attempts by some of the older women to return to staro cikatovo, in order to locate and bury the bodies of their dead men, they were not permitted to return to the village. According to a.a., the women "never made it further than the school. . . . The third time they went, they were told, `we can let you in but there are police in the houses, and they might kill you.'"
The April 30 Offensive
As -the testimony from Rezala, Cikatovo, and Poklek suggests, actions by Serbian security forces in Drenica were designed in part to control the flow of the civilian population. Just as certain villages were attacked early on and their populations forced to flee, other villages were left comparatively untouched to serve as so-called "free zones" where displaced civilians could take shelter. The strategy of forcibly concentrating the civilian population into a few villages was complicated by efforts to create barriers of civilians between Serbian security forces and the KLA, thereby limiting the ability of the KLA to attack Serbian positions, or defend from attack. As noted above, the villagers of Staro Cikatovo found themselves hostage to that strategy, as they were forced to remain in their village caught between Serbian forces based in the Feronikel plant and the KLA positions these forces were attacking.
As mentioned above, the Feronikel plant was frequently used as a base by Serbian and Yugoslav forces throughout 1998 and 1999. There are unconfirmed reports that the large mine and industrial complex was also used as a detention facility for Albanians beginning in March 1998. OSCE personnel who visited the site in June 1999 were shown what is characterized in their report as "possible evidence of torture" of civilians by Serbian security forces, such as a pole with nails hammered into either end.50 The testimony of Glogovac area residents certainly confirms a consistent presence by Serbian security forces during March and April 1999.
On the night of April 29, NATO aircraft bombed the Feronikel facility, causing extensive damage to the buildings and plant. The extent of the casualties among Serbian forces and damage to military capability is unknown. However, the response of Serbian soldiers, police, and paramilitaries was swift, clear, and brutal. Early on April 30, Serbian forces attacked the villages of Stutica, Vrbovac, and Baks and surrounding areas. As many as one hundred Albanian men were killed and more than two hundred taken prisoner during the operation.51 The prisoners were taken to a destroyed mosque in nearby Cirez and held overnight. The next day, they were loaded onto trucks for jails in Glogovac and Lipljan. Some of the trucks stopped at the Shavarina mine near Staro Cikatovo. At least one hundred men were taken off trucks at Shavarina and executed. The survivors were taken to Glogovac, where they were interrogated and beaten for five days before being transported to three villages where they were forced to work until June. The final death toll is believed to be in excess of two hundred.
On April 30, the village of Vrbovac and the surrounding area were under KLA control. Although the area had been attacked by government forces before, witnesses present in the area described the village and its environs as a "free zone," meaning that it was an area where Albanian civilians were safe from attacks by Serbian security forces. As a result there were a large number of displaced persons from other villages sheltering in the Vrbovac area, including Gladno Selo, Trstenik, Poljance, Globare and Poklek. An attack on the village in early April had already forced the inhabitants to flee to the woods for one night. According to R.K., a Vrbovac resident:
April was the worst month because it was the month when most of the people were killed. I'm going to tell you when my father was killed. He was eighty-four-years old. When the Serbs attacked us we all ran away from the house but he stayed here. They killed him at night in the yard. We couldn't come back that evening. We had to sleep in the woods. When I came back I found him in the yard. He was shot in the head. . . . My father was killed April 7 but most of the people were killed April 30. . . .52
The April 30 attack on Vrbovac began at dawn. Six witnesses interviewed independently by Human Rights Watch state that the village was attacked between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. All the witnesses describe how the village was surrounded. Given the presence of the KLA in the Vrbovac area, the surrounding of the village by Serbian security forces made tactical sense. According to F.P., a twenty-two-year-old Vrbovac resident who described himself as a member of the KLA:
The village was surrounded on all sides. The forces came from the direction of Gladno Selo, Poljance and Cirez. . . . The offensive began at about 6 a.m. and lasted until about 4 p.m. They were shooting with tanks and mortars. . . . There were only [KLA] ten soldiers [in the village] . . . the rest were civilians. Most of the soldiers were in the woods.53
F.P. who was "in the woods, watching with binoculars," also said that at around 3 p.m. his unit had encountered a Serbian police position in the woods and had fought with them for an hour. According to R.N., a seventy-eight-year-old Gladno Selo resident who was present in the woods near Vrbovac on April 30, " a few" of the people killed in the woods were KLA."54 R.N. also said that members of the group he was hiding with in the woods had rifles and a pair of binoculars, although he did not specify if they were KLA members.
Although large numbers of civilians were present and some of the dead, who included elderly men and boys, were clearly civilians, the presence of the KLA and the admission from a KLA soldier that the KLA was engaged in combat with Serbian security forces on the day of the killings complicates the analysis of the killings. The largest number of killings appears to have taken place in what witnesses refer to as a "dell." The testimony of M.H., a twenty-six-year-old man from Poklek who was sheltering in Vrbovac at the time, suggests that the attacking Serbian forces left an escape route, which led into the "dell" area. He explained:
We were surrounded. The offensive started at around 5 a.m. My aunt told us to go away because the police had arrived. We were still sleeping. When we left [Vrbovac] we saw there were forces all over the area. We saw there was only one way out. So we went to that field and to the mountains. It was like a dell. . . . We could hear the voices of the Serbs talking. They surrounded us. They were about two kilometers away. They started shooting, but not at us. When they came close they shot at us. Some of us were killed-I was only wounded. My brother was shot in the chest with three bullets. The police heard him talking, came back and shot him again with nineteen bullets. I saw him [being shot]. . . . A policeman was looking at me. I was covered in blood so he thought I was dead. I stayed in that place for twelve hours. There were twenty-nine people killed at that time.55
S.G. a sixty-two-year-old man from Vrbovac, became separated from some of his family members who had decided to take shelter in the dell:
It was April 30, about 6 a.m. . . . We were all sleeping when we heard shots from all sides. . . . After about half an hour all the people from the houses higher up in the village were coming this way. The women, children, and elderly went in the direction of the field and the youngest-the men-we went in the direction of the woods. . . . When I was up in the woods I could see forces coming from all sides, from Globar, Trstenik, Cirez, Stutica and Gladno Selo. We were surrounded. I met some of the refugees [displaced people] from my house and my son-in-law. None of us knew what to do. As a parent I felt responsible for my children. I told them to run away from the hill. We thought that it [the place where our children took shelter] was some kind of dell so they [Serbian forces] wouldn't find them there. But they [Serbian forces] killed them all there . . . Among the people they caught in the dell-some were brought to a neighborhood of the village-including my brother-and they killed them there.56
Whether they were ordered to limit killings or were simply permitted to kill whomever they wished, Serbian forces did not kill all the Albanian men they encountered in the Vrbovac area. S.G. was captured by Serbian soldiers the following morning, after having the spent the night at home, and was taken to Glogovac unharmed, where he was detained (see section on detentions below). Capture did not necessarily end the risk of being killed, however. B.R., a forty-five-year-old Vrbovac resident narrowly escaped death after intervening to save his son:
It was April 30, about 7 a.m. The forces were inside the village. They were coming from all sides with all kinds of vehicles. We men decided to run away. . . . We went to the woods. I was with my son. My oldest son didn't stay with us. [Serbian forces] saw this son [who was with me] in a bush. They surrounded my son and shot around him. They told him to call for his friends but he didn't understand Serbian so one of them said `he's pretending he doesn't understand Serbian, let me shoot him.' When I saw that they were going to shoot my son I went to them and said `he doesn't understand.' They took us close to the water and told us to take off our jackets. Then they beat us very badly. Then one of them, a commander, saw some more of us [Albanians] so they took my son, [R.], as a hostage to go and find the others. One of the Albanians had a gun and shot once at the paramilitaries. Three police put their guns on my shoulders and began shooting. They killed two and caught another one, I.F. I saw when they cut him with a knife [indicates across throat]. When I saw my son was in danger I said to the police let him go and take me.
They didn't listen to me. They beat me with a stone and the butt of a gun. They cut my hand with a knife. I don't know how many of them there were-ten or fifteen. They took us and made us stand in a line. They brought another person [V.B.], and told him to go and find the gun that the Albanian had had. But he found only one gun. They said there were two guns so they shot him. I was ten meters away. They told us to go in the direction of Cirez. Along the road, there was another group of police-special police-and a tank. The special police beat us at that location. One of us, Ismet Prokshi, they tied behind a tank. Then he was executed. I saw it. . . .
My son was helping me to walk because I was covered in blood. I had a head wound and I couldn't see where I was going. About one kilometer before we reached the school in Cirez I collapsed. My son wanted to stay with me but they didn't let him. One of them was saying, `why don't you kill him.' Another said, `no, he is already dead.' They thought I was going to die so they left me. . . . It was the last time I saw my son. He was executed at Shavarina.57
B.R.'s beating and the execution of Ismet Prokshi by paramilitaries was confirmed by Z.Z. (initials altered), a forty-four-year-old man from Poljance, who was also captured outside Vrbovac on April 30.58 According to the man, Prokshi, who was already wounded, was beaten to death after two NATO aircraft flew overhead in the afternoon. A.D. a twenty-four-year-old man from Trstenik was captured together with B.R. He confirmed the overflight by the NATO aircraft, and B.R.'s beating:
They [Serbian forces] caught me with [B.R.] and his son at 11 a.m. First they started to beat us with everything they had in their hands. There is not much to say but they were trying to cut me. One of them had a red bandana on his arm. They took us to a stream and told us to lie down. . . . they beat [B.R.] and his son too. They took us to Stutica. On the road we met a group of thirty civilians. They told us to put our hands up. They took my ID card and passport. When I came back from England, I found my passport in that place. There were about sixty of us in Stutica. We saw dead bodies. I saw the body of one of my cousins. They told us to lie down and to take off all the clothing we were wearing. They left us with just t-shirts. . . . then they ordered us to go to the mosque in Cirez. It was 4 p.m. . . . On the road to Cirez we left [B.R.] because we thought he was dead. . . . One paramilitary wanted to shoot him but another said, `leave him, he's already dead.'59
Y.Y. (initials altered) a middle-aged man from Globar was also caught near Vrbovac.
It was April 30. [Serbian forces] attacked us from Globar, Staro Cikatovo, Cirez and from the side of Poljance, Stutica, and Vrbovac at about 6 a.m. There were more than 5,000 people staying in the woods. We call it "Fusha E Molles" (Field of Apples). We didn't have guns, but there was a small number of KLA inside [Vrbovac]. It was a terrible day, that day. They killed so many people. . . . Vrbovac was a free-zone. . . . It was 5p.m. There were about twenty or thirty of us. [Serbian forces] came close to us. The woods were on fire. There were army, police, and paramilitaries with masks. They came close to us, and surrounded us. We decided to give up. They beat us up and sent us to a house in Vrbovac close to the mountains. They told us to take off our jackets. Some of us were even without trousers. . . . [then] they sent us to the mosque in Cirez.60
Forty-five-year-old Baks resident A.S. was captured in "Fushe e Molles" earlier in the day at around 2 p.m. According to A.S., he and eighty-five others were told to lie down and were beaten in the field before being taken to the mosque in Cirez.61
Thirty-seven-year-old Z.K., from Gladno Selo, was also captured by Serbian soldiers on April 30 in what he referred to as "a dell," together with six others, and added to another group of thirty or forty Albanian prisoners. The men, one of whom had a weapon and may have been a KLA fighter, were detained, questioned about KLA involvement and beaten. At least two men were killed and another disappeared before the group was taken to Cirez:
It was morning but I can't remember exactly what time, on April 30. We were running. They were shooting from all sides, coming closer and closer. . . . We were trapped so we surrendered. We were in a dell. I was with six others, four uncles and two men from Cikatovo. We gave up. . . . Other soldiers came. One of them said to us "give us everything you have"-we gave them everything-money, watches, jackets. . . . They took us with our hands up onto the road. There were more people there-thirty or forty of them-with a guard. Then they took us about 200 meters away. . . . We were lined up one by one. . . . They were beating [H.B.] because he had a gun and they took another man, [B.B.], into a stream and killed him. We don't know . . . [what happened to] [H.B.] . . . One of their soldiers came back covered in blood. He asked the others to choose one of us because "one of them is mine." At that time they killed [S.], my uncle's son. I heard them talk about how they had killed him. Then they came to us and said "we're going to kill you all." They beat the young people with a stick. Then they took us to a house. . . . [There was] an officer there with four soldiers. They said "we'll call you by name." They had a list of people in the KLA but no one among us was on the list. From that place they took us to "Fusha E Molles". . . . There was a tank. They asked us to take off our clothes so they could cover the tank, because they were afraid of NATO. They told us lie down and asked us `are you in the KLA." [H.B.] was very bad[ly wounded]. He couldn't speak. I was hit with the butt of a rifle and questioned and hit with a fist. . . . They questioned everyone there. After they brought another group there-there were about thirteen of them-and did the same things to them, asking questions and beating them. Then they took us in the direction of Cirez.62
The nearby village of Stutica was also attacked early on April 30. Stutica had been attacked on March 20, forcing residents to flee to Cirez for a week, and villagers had also evacuated the village during a two-day offensive by police in early April. The village then remained quiet for three weeks. Several witnesses noted that Stutica and Vrbovac were the only villages in the area without a permanent Serbian security presence during the month of April. As in Vrbovac, displaced persons from Dosevac, Cirez, and other surrounding villages had taken refuge in Stutica as a result. When the village was attacked on April 30, male residents and displaced persons fled to the surrounding woods. Many of the men were caught later the same day, and were taken to Baks and then ultimately to Cirez. Forty-four-year-old Stutica resident R.B. narrowly escaped death when the group of twenty-five men he was part of was attacked in the woods:
It was April 30 in the morning. I had just woken up. We saw that we were surrounded. The grenades started, so we had to leave the house and find a safer place. . . . There were about twenty-five persons in one place outside. . . . The women and children of the village were in the school. The men ranged [in age] between fifteen and seventy. During the day Serb forces were coming closer and closer to us. At about 5 p.m. they came very close to us. [It was] Serbian paramilitaries and army. They shot at us. I was the first one to be wounded [in the fingers]. . . . We heard somebody say "don't shoot, we are civilians." We put our hands on our heads. . . . I saw that more than eighteen [people] had been killed. Seven of us got out from there-four of us were wounded. I was wounded in the fingers, chest, and side [indicates bullet holes in jacket]. They checked our clothing for gold, watches and money. . . . Then we went to Baks. . . . When we got to Baks they ordered us to go to one house and lie down on the floor . . . they beat us with a big stick. When we went out on the road we saw some civilians who had been arrested-a lot of people including three of my brothers and some children. They took seven from that group and killed them. We know where they are buried. They were beating us and insulting us. . . . Near the mosque in Cirez they stopped us. One soldier came (who was very tall with dark skin) and a lot of other soldiers were beating us. One of them killed a man in front of us.63
A.A., a nineteen-year-old man from the village, was in the same group. His account corroborates R.B.'s statement:
Early in the morning, Stutica and Vrbovac were attacked. There were so many refugees and a large number of people [from the village] there. The men decided to go into the woods. A large number of forces came here on foot and with tanks. They were shooting in the woods with mortars and tanks. It was about 3 p.m. when we got to the side of Baks. . . . At about 5 p.m. we were surrounded by military forces. At that moment there were about thirty of us. They shot at us for about five minutes. They were fifteen to twenty meters away from us. There were so many dead in that place-I was wounded in my left arm at that time. We screamed "we are civilians, don't shoot at us." They stopped shooting. They captured us and moved us away from the dead. My uncle was wounded but alive. He was trying to walk but he couldn't so they executed him. I was wounded in my left arm. They were telling us to keep our hands behind our heads but I couldn't. . . .
They asked us for money and told us to take off our jackets. . . . They took us to Baks into the yard of a house. We were lying down with our hands behind our heads for one hour. After they took us out of there I saw some other [Albanian] civilians there. [Then] they took us on the road toward Cirez. I was at the start of the line with my father. As I told you, I couldn't put my hands up. One soldier came close to me and started to [verbally] abuse me. I didn't understand Serbian. Then my father began translating for me. Then he started to abuse him too saying, "why do you understand Serbian but your son doesn't." [The soldier] took a hand- grenade and wanted to put it into my mouth but another soldier told him to leave me alone. They put me back in the line. We heard some shots at the end of the line but I didn't see what happened. . . . Then they told us to go to Cirez. 64
Twenty-two-year-old Stutica resident, A.S., was in another group hiding in the woods that was captured at around the same time. Although the group was not fired upon immediately, the circumstances of their capture were similar. A.S. explained what he saw:
It was April 30, a Friday. The day after they bombed Feronikel. We woke up before 5 a.m. and we were surrounded. Vrbovac and Dosevac [were] also surrounded. The youngest men ran away from the houses to the woods, leaving the rest of [our] families here. We were hiding in the woods. There were shots all day long. It was between 4 and 5 p.m. when [Serbian forces] caught us. They came in a tank. . . . There were forty or fifty of us staying there. After they took us from that place they told us to lie down with our hands behind our heads. They began to beat some of us immediately. They killed a boy there [who was] thirteen years old. After that they took money and some clothing, put us in a line and took us to Cirez. 65
It is notable that many of the men captured near Stutica and Vrbovac were told to remove their jackets and other clothing. Survivor Z.K.'s explanation is that "they asked us to take off our clothes so they could cover the tank because they were afraid of NATO."66 It is certainly possible that just as farm buildings and houses were used to shelter tanks and other military equipment, clothing may have also been used to make identification by NATO aircraft more difficult. Another possibility is that the security forces were searching the men for signs of fighting, such as a uniform under their clothes or bruising on the shoulder from firing a gun.
As witnesses from Stutica and Vrbovac have testified, many of those captured were taken to the village of Baks before being sent to Cirez. Baks appears to have served as a collection point for the prisoners prior to their detention in Cirez (described in detail below). Both R.B. and A.A. from Stutica describe their detention in a house in Baks before being moved to Cirez with another group of Albanian civilians. In addition, Stutica resident A.S., as well as F.R., a thirty-nine-year-old man from Cirez who had been staying in Stutica, describe the detention of fifteen or sixteen men in the yard of a house in Baks. According to both A.S. and F.R., the men lying on the ground were ordered to join the new arrivals and directed toward Cirez.
F.R. identified the owner of the house:
When we came into Baks, near the house of [name withheld], fifteen or sixteen civilians were lying on the ground with their hands behind their heads. We thought they were all dead. We stayed there about fifteen minutes. They were ordered to get up. We saw that they were alive. Then they went in front of us [in the line of prisoners]. . . . .We started to walk towards Cirez with a tank behind us. When we got to [name withheld]'s house [Serbian forces] ordered us to stop. They shot at houses near to us. We didn't know what they were shooting at. When they came back they began beating us with guns. My father and uncles were part of a group of five who were ordered to stay there. The rest of us were ordered to go to Cirez. Four of them [the five] came later and one man from Dosevac was killed.67
R.B.'s testimony describes the execution of seven of the Albanian men being held prisoner in Baks. The seven were part of a group of eight men who were detained outside Baks by paramilitaries after a Serbian policeman had been killed. The eight men were beaten and forced to carry the police officer's body to Baks, where they were lined up and shot. The sole survivor, twenty-two-year-old M.F., recounted his ordeal:
It was April 30, a Friday. . . . I was with two brothers, a nephew, an uncle and three cousins. We went towards Baks through the hills. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. Paramilitaries came. They surrounded us and took the eight of us. They brought us to a field and started to beat us. There was [the body of] some police guy who had been killed. After they beat us they took us towards Baks. On the road to Baks they stopped us and began beating us, saying "are you in the KLA? Do you have guns?" We weren't in the KLA and didn't have guns. We were carrying that dead [police] man. When we got to Baks they asked us to tell them which one of us killed him. . . . They beat us again, asking us the same question. There were about thirty or thirty-five police officers there. They told us to go two or three meters away. One person began shooting. We ran. Some others came out of a tank and fired as well. One of my brothers and a cousin were the first to be killed. I fell down. I was wounded in my leg. They thought we had all been killed so they took the tanks and went away. After they had gone about 250 meters away, two of them came back and walked around for about five minutes then walked off. After that I got up, looked around and saw that everyone had been killed.68
M.F. described the paramilitaries as wearing "uniforms, but not like a soldier. They had green and brown bandanas on their heads and a red scarf tied around their arms. The uniforms were green and yellow camouflage." M.F. showed a Human Rights Watch researcher entry and exit wounds on his leg consistent with his statement. M.F. eventually made his way to Stutica where he was helped by a relative.
According to Q.Q. (initials altered), a forty-six-year-old Dosevac resident, twenty-five-year-old Bexhet Shabani was executed by paramilitaries in a separate incident in Baks.69 A.S., the twenty- two-year-old from Stutica, claims that he saw the body of "a young man lying dead in the road" upon entering Baks.70 Q.Q. and many of the others witnesses interviewed claim that there were more executions in the Baks area, but Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm these reports.
The Mosque in Cirez (Qirez)
Many of the men captured in the Baks, Stutica, and Vrbovac areas on April 30 were taken to the mosque in Cirez and detained there overnight. The mosque, which is located in the center of the village, had been ransacked and burned prior to March 1999. Human Rights Watch interviewed twelve witnesses who were detained in the damaged mosque on April 30. The witnesses are from the villages of Baks, Cirez, Dosevac, Gladno Selo, Globare, Poljance, Stutica, Trstenik, and Vrbovac, all of which lie within a five kilometer radius of Cirez. Most stated that an Albanian man, S.K., had been ordered to count the prisoners, and that he had counted 176 men in the mosque. S.K. was subsequently executed. Several witnesses indicated to Human Rights Watch that the count did not include a smaller group of men who were being held on the upper floor of the mosque. Whatever the total, the purpose of the count would become clear the following morning, May 1. After spending the night in the mosque, the men were taken outside in two groups, the first at around 8 a.m. and the second at around noon. Some were beaten. On both occasions, the prisoners were then organized into smaller groups and ordered to get on to trucks. The size of the groups and the number of trucks had clearly been calculated from the count conducted the night before. On each occasion there were three trucks, and the prisoners were split into groups of between twenty and thirty.
Underlying all the statements from witnesses who were detained at the mosque in Cirez was that they had feared execution at any moment. Cirez resident, F.R., who was detained in Baks after having fled his village, was part of the first group to be taken out of the mosque. He was badly beaten before being put on the first group of trucks:
We arrived at the mosque in Cirez. We were lined up two by two. They called an Albanian guy and he started to count us. At that time they brought a man on a tank. They put him about one hundred meters away from us. They took a belt and put it around his head and ordered him to put his hands up. He walked for ten meters and they shot him twice. They ordered us to go into the mosque. We were about 175. Most of us were from Cirez, Baks, Stutica, and Vrbovac. . . . [We spent the night there]. . . . The next day at around 8 a.m. . . . we were told to line up two-by-two and face the wall. . . . An hour later paramilitaries came . . . They said whoever speaks Serbian come here. About twenty people went and were sent outside [the mosque]. Then they beat them. You could hear the screams. It was like [listening to] wild animals. They ordered us to go out of the door two by two. When I went out one Serb soldier (or whatever he was) said to another that I was a Turk. He cut my head with a knife. Another one said "give him to me." They took me to the side of the mosque. [The second one] had a big knife and started to cut my clothing. . . . He was cutting my jacket. Then he put the knife on my stomach. But another one said, "don't kill him," so he put the knife down. As I was standing there someone broke a pane of glass over my head. They told me, "you are the second one we are going to kill." I was standing like this [indicates position] with my hands behind my head. [One of them] broke one of my fingers. . . . My father saw me covered in blood. . . . [Then] me and another guy were ordered to get on a yellow truck. There were three trucks at first that were going to Glogovac. . . . We were in the last truck.71
Nineteen-year-old Stutica resident A.A. was also in the first group to be taken out of the mosque early on May 1. After being beaten, he witnessed one man's execution with gunfire and another who was burned alive:
They put us in the yard of the mosque in Cirez. Some officer started beating me. Then he took another man from Vrbovac and executed him in front of our eyes. There were more people in the mosque when we entered. They told S.K. from Gladno Selo to count how many we were. I can remember that there were 176 of us in the mosque. We spent one night there. The morning after, at 7 or 8 a.m., they took us outside the mosque again. Then they put us into groups-one group in the graveyard of the mosque and another at the back of the mosque. There were about twenty soldiers. They were saying "we are going to take you to the new graves of Mohammed." Behind us I can remember there was one person (alive) lying down and they set fire to him. . . . They told us to stay on our knees with our hands behind our heads, looking down. They asked for money again. . . . .I was trying to take money out of my pocket but I couldn't do it with one hand. Then a soldier came with a knife and cut my pocket. I had two pairs of trousers on. When I tried to take one pair off a soldier took me out of the line and asked me why I was wearing two pairs. I told them it was because it was cold and I had been sleeping in the woods. Then they said "you are KLA." . . . I tried to tell them I wasn't a KLA soldier. They sent me back to the line. Then they put us in a truck. As we came close to the truck a soldier hit me on the head with a bottle because I couldn't get on the truck . . . because I was wounded. I don't know how but I managed to get on the truck. There were twenty of us on the truck.72
Another witness from the first group, twenty-four-year-old A.D. from Trstenik, also described the burning of prisoners with gasoline.73
It is unclear whether the intention of the operation in Cirez was to distinguish KLA members among the prisoners or simply to round up presumed sympathizers. Some of the lines of interrogation and threats against the prisoners were on their face designed to identify which among them were affiliated with the insurgency. The experience of Z.K., the witness from Gladno Selo who was captured in "the dell," shows that whatever the motivations, the theme of KLA membership was constant during the prisoners' detention in the Cirez mosque (and later). According to Z.K:
A major came and asked for one of us who could speak Serbian. One of our cousins, [S.K.], acted a translator (he was killed later). . . . It was Friday. They took us into the mosque. He said "on Monday you will all be released, except members of the KLA.". . . . We spent the night there. The next day paramilitaries came. They screamed and threatened us with knives. They came inside and started beating us but they saw there were so many of us so they took us outside, lined us up against the wall and beat us until we collapsed. After twenty or thirty minutes of beating us, one of them (who was in charge) ordered us to strip. They hit me with an automatic rifle. After that [the one in charge] told them to stop beating us. There was a wounded Albanian man. Two paramilitaries took him and said "you are free but must tell us who among them is in the KLA." . . . That Albanian was scared. He didn't care who was and who wasn't in the KLA and he chose some men there. . . . He told them that I am in the KLA. I said "I'm not." They said, "please don't lie to us because we'll kill you if you do it again." Then they brought some trucks and sent some to Shavarina and some to prison in Lipljan. They told us to go back inside the mosque and after three or four hours they came back and took us. . . .74
As his testimony suggests, Z.K. was part of the second group of prisoners who were detained in the mosque until the early afternoon. Despite this difference, the subsequent fate of both groups was the same. Each group was loaded onto three flatbed trucks (some witnesses from both groups said the trucks were painted yellow but it is not clear if the same trucks were used).The men were ordered to lie on the floors of the trucks and armed paramilitaries rode in the back of each truck. Some witnesses said the paramilitaries forced them to sing Serbian songs and beat them en route. The trucks were driven towards Glogovac town, and on both occasions at least two of the trucks stopped at the Shavarina mine near the village of Staro Cikatovo. The open-cast mine is part of the Feronikel complex. On May 1, more than one hundred prisoners were taken off trucks at Shavarina, lined up, and executed in the course of the day.
The Shavarina Mine
Despite being taken out of the mosque in the early morning, the first group was not loaded onto the trucks for several hours. A survivor from the second group said the first group of prisoners was ordered onto the trucks at around 11 a.m., which is roughly consistent with a statement from a witness from the first group who said that his truck had reached Shavarina at around noon. The separation of the prisoners into smaller groups and their assignment to individual trucks appears to have been made at random. While the selection of the groups was left to chance, the horrific consequences for those selected to board the second truck were no accident. The first of the three trucks was allowed to proceed directly to Glogovac and on to Lipljan. Trucks two and three were stopped at Shavarina. The men from truck two were ordered off the truck and lined up along a drainage trench at the side of the road and shot. The prisoners from truck three were there to witness the killings.
As noted above, F.R., in the first group of prisoners taken from the mosque, was on the last truck. He witnessed some of the executions in Shavarina:
We went to a place called Shavarina. The first truck didn't stop. The second did. The third truck stopped and they told us to get up [and] told us to look at the other truck. They said "This is going to happen to you." They killed five or six people in front of us. It's near Feronikel-it's a place called Shavarina. Then with my own eyes, I saw my uncle get off the truck with another seventy-year-old. They were standing by one another facing the soldiers. The soldiers were about ten or twelve meters away, just watching. There were groups of people [of various sizes]. First they killed the groups of five-one by one. When they finished them they started on the group of fifteen or sixteen. After that another person came and shot the people who had fallen down at close range. I couldn't watch anymore. There was a small explosion and the Serbs started to laugh at us. We were just waiting for our turn to be killed. We were lucky not to have to get out of the truck.. [then] they took us to the police station in Glogovac . . .75
A.S., the Baks resident who was captured in "Fushe e Molles," was on the same truck as F.R. His testimony underscores the terror of the prisoners in truck three as they witnessed fellow villagers being executed:
They brought three trucks and put us in the trucks lying on top of one another. Then they drove towards Glogovac. When we arrived in Cikatovo, at Shavarina, they stopped two trucks there. People from one truck were all killed. They put them in three groups. Some of [the Serb forces] had bandoliers of bullets. Then they shot at them and they fell down there in that hole. Then another car came from Glogovac. We were thinking they would kill us but they took us to Glogovac.76
The second group was out of the mosque at around noon, although witness statements suggest that they were not ordered to board the trucks until several hours later. The pattern of their transportation and murder was broadly similar to that of the first group. The prisoners were ordered to form smaller groups before getting on to the three trucks. The first truck went to Glogovac, although it first stopped at Shavarina for between thirty minutes and an hour, allowing enough time for several witnesses to hear gunshots, even though they were unable to see what was happening. The second and third trucks stopped at Shavarina as before. This time, however, the occupants of both trucks were taken off, lined up and shot. Almost all were killed, but several were able to escape. Their testimony is the only eyewitness record of the events that afternoon.
Forty-four-year-old Z.Z. (initials altered), the Poljance resident who witnessed the beating death of Ismet Prokshi near Vrbovac, was one of the survivors. He described his escape:
They took us out of the mosque. It was 4 p.m. when they put us on the trucks. It was May 1. (We had stayed one night in the mosque.) The first truck in front of us went on the road to Glogovac. I was in the second truck with four paramilitaries with automatic weapons trained on us. They asked us to sing "Serbia, Serbia." We were going to Shavarina. They stopped at the crossroads to Dobrasevac and Feronikel. I don't know about the truck in front of us, but in my truck they put us in tens and took us out of the truck ten by ten. . . . I was in the third group and there were twelve of us, so I knew we were thirty-two in total. Close to me was a guy called ["Q.Q"] so I just touched him a little on the hand so he understood I was trying to tell him to run away. He was the first to try to run away from here. I was behind him. There were three paramilitaries with rifles and seven with machine guns. They were twenty meters away from us. . . . When we started to run they began shooting at us. I was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet. Then I said: `why don't you shoot me?-I'm a robot-you can't kill me.' . . . They chased us for two kilometers-shooting at us . . . After two or three kilometers they stopped shooting at us. I saw a stream [and went to it]. I was wounded. . . . the other man who was with me was trying to take care of the wounds. He said to me "we must leave here and find you a doctor.". . . . we stayed there until it was dark. . . . In the evening I went to Dosevac. There was a doctor there who gave me first aid.77
Q.Q. (initials altered), a Dosevac man who had been captured in Stutica (see above), stood next to Z.Z. (initials altered) as they waited to be shot. Although less detailed, his account corroborates the other survivor's testimony:
They put us on the trucks. I'm not sure what time it was-around 2 or 3 p.m. . . . They took us towards Glog, beating us on the way. They told us to sing "Serbia is big." They were beating us in the truck until we reached Shavarina. I was in the second truck. The first truck went to Glogovac. Everyone on the second and third trucks was shot. It was only me and another man from Poljance who survived. They took us out of the truck in groups. I was in the second group but I escaped with ["Z.Z"]. I don't know how many they killed because I didn't see. I think there's another one from Gladno Selo who survived. We were lucky [to have escaped] because they were shooting all around us. . . .78
Human Rights Watch was unable to locate any survivors from truck three. Testimony from Q.Q. and others indicate that truck three never arrived in Glogovac, nor were its occupants heard from again.
The total death toll from the Shavarina killings is believed to be 121. This figure is the total number of bodies discovered at two sites. Forty-nine bodies were found in the drainage canal at Shavarina, and another seventy-two corpses of those killed at Shavarina were exhumed from a site opposite the school in Staro Cikatovo. As of October 1999, thirty-seven of the forty-nine bodies from the Shavarina site had been identified, together with fifty-seven of the seventy-two corpses from the school site.79 The total of 121 probably includes some or all of the twenty-four persons reported killed in Staro Cikatovo on April 16, as there were thought to be around ninety men on the three trucks whose occupants were killed. As noted above, however, the figure of 176 taken from the mosque on May 1 may be an undercount, since several witnesses suggested that a smaller group of prisoners on the upper floor of the mosque were omitted. Whatever the total, the executions at Shavarina provide some of the best evidence of the systematic nature of the killings by Serbian security forces during the spring of 1999.
Detention and Interrogation in Glogovac
Those who had climbed aboard the "safe" trucks in Cirez were taken to Glogovac and detained, questioned, and beaten by police for up to five days before being transferred to other detention facilities or taken to villages around Glogovac where they were forced to work. At least one man was killed while in detention in Glogovac. A.S. from Baks saw the man being chosen for death. According to A.S.: "There was a man sitting beside me from Gladno Selo. A soldier came said, `I want to kill one of them,' so they took him [the man next to me] ten or fifteen meters away and we heard four shots."80 R.B. from Stutica was also present. He explained what he saw: "a policeman came with a bottle of alcohol and said `I'm going to kill Albanians.' The police who were there said you can have anyone you want. He took a man called Topila from Gladno Selo. He took him to a burned house and we heard four shots and the man didn't come back."81
Not all those detained in Glogovac were brought from the mosque. S.G., a sixty-two-year-old man from Vrbovac who was captured outside his house, was taken straight to Glogovac together with eighteen other prisoners from surrounding areas. The men were unharmed until they reached the police station. There they were beaten severely in police custody and detained for five days before being transferred to villages, where they were forced to work for security forces. S.G. explained what happened upon his arrival in Glogovac:
They took us from Trstenik to Glogovac. There were one hundred police in the yard of the police station in Glogovac. At that moment there were nineteen of us [prisoners]. Some of the police had sticks and some had iron bars. Then they started to beat us. [By the end] most of us were beaten unconscious and covered in blood. After an hour they took us into another room. There were some other prisoners there. After another hour they told us to come out. They told us to face the wall. There were three lines of us. They beat us non-stop from 12 o'clock until 5 p.m. Nobody knew what was going to happen to us. We stayed there for five days without food-we got water only once a day. After five days they took us out of the police station. We were about two hundred then. They called us one by one and questioned us, beating us all the time, although they didn't beat me that day. They took our ID cards but returned them to us. We thought they were going to release us, but they only released a thirteen-year-old boy and a seventy-five-year-old man. . . . Unfortunately, [Serbian forces] killed both of them in Globar. . . . Then they brought two trucks and told us to get in-beating us all the time. They put us in the trucks, closed the doors and took us to Lapusnik. . . .82
Some prisoners were taken from Glogovac almost immediately. Y.Y. (initials altered) the fifty-three-year-old Globar resident who was captured in Vrbovac (see above), was detained in the Cirez mosque and taken on a "safe" truck through Shavarina to Glogovac. Y.Y. was beaten and detained overnight in Glogovac. He confirmed the release of the elderly man and boy, who were subsequently killed in Globar. Y.Y. was taken to Pristina before being transferred to the prison in Lipljan. He described what happened after he arrived in Glogovac:
There were about thirty people on my truck. They didn't kill anyone from the truck. [Instead] they took us to the police station in Glogovac. It's near the municipal offices. There were more people [detainees] there. We were about fifty altogether. They [the police] beat us with iron bars, sticks and the back of shovels. They were beating us. After we collapsed they put water on our faces, even benzine [gasoline]. They told us to stand up and then started to beat us again. In the evening they put us in the nearby cinema. We stayed there until the following day. There were around sixty of us. The following day they [police] took us out and some civilians came and took our names, dates of birth, and took us one by one for questioning. They put thirteen of us in police cars and took us to prison in Pristina. We spent one night there. This happened on May 2. On May 3, we were taken to Lipljan on a large truck. We were not only from Glogovac, but also from Podujevo and Pristina. At the prison in Lipljan we were beaten very badly. I was there for twenty-six days. . . . Sometime they gave us one loaf between five but not every day. We were twenty-four in one room. They didn't beat us every day, but they did most days. I was injured in the chest because of the beatings. . . . 83
On May 26, Y.Y. and sixty other prisoners were taken to the Macedonian border on buses and expelled. A.D., the twenty-four-year-old man from Trstenik, provided a similar account, adding that he was questioned in Pristina at police headquarters and at the prison in Lipljan about KLA involvement.84 He was part of the same group of sixty-one expelled on May 26. The questioning and different treatment of this group suggests that Serbian authorities either suspected them of KLA involvement or believed that they were more of a threat than those prisoners who were made to work in the villages around Glogovac.
Detention and Compulsory Labor
Most of the surviving prisoners from the Cirez mosque were transferred from Glogovac to three nearby villages on May 5 and 6. Seven of the Cirez prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that they had been taken in trucks to the villages of Krajkovo, Vukovce, and Poturk and handed over to Serbian security forces. The men were forced to work for approximately six weeks until the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo in mid-June. Tasks included digging trenches and bunkers. Witnesses reported incidents of beating and torture of prisoners at the hands of the government forces, although some noted that they were fed and received better treatment than they had at the hands of Serbian police and paramilitaries in Cirez and Glogovac.
R.B., the Stutica resident who received multiple gunshot wounds during the April 30 offensive, was among those detained by the police in Glogovac during the first week of May. On May 6, he was taken with seventy-five others to Krajkovo and later to Vukovce, where he was forced to work until June 15. He described his ordeal:
In the afternoon the military police came in two trucks. They put us in the trucks-lying on top of one another. They were beating us and asking us to sing the song "Kosovo is Serbia." We had no idea where we were going until the truck stopped in the village of Krajkovo. They brought us a little bread and water and put us in three groups-two groups of twenty-five and one of twenty-six. I was with the twenty-six. They put us back on the truck and took us to the village of Vukovce. [There] they put us in five groups-four groups of five and one group of six. That day they asked us to dig bunkers. The young guy who was with me was saying to me "we are digging our graves" but I told him don't be afraid, we are opening a bunker. In the evening they put us all in the same room. . . . In that time they were beating and insulting us every time they lost someone to the KLA or NATO. They gave us food-we were working-but they didn't care if we were wounded; [there was] no medical treatment. I had my fingers wounded but I couldn't tell them I was wounded by soldiers. I told them I was wounded by police.
The worst thing was done to Z.M., a seventy-year-old man who ate a piece of cheese [without permission]. One soldier made him stand for two days with his legs on two blocks. They didn't give him any food. After that they forced him to take off his clothes and get into a rain barrel and stay there all day. Another day he tied him in three places and left him like that-giving him very little bread. In the evening some soldiers came. One had three red lines on his jacket. . . . He untied [Z.M.] and started to beat him. Then they let him sleep for three days on the floor. Whenever they thought there was a risk-of mines for example-they made us go first. . . . I was in detention for forty-seven days.85
Gladno Selo resident Z.K., who was also part of the group detained in Vukovce, confirmed the torture of Z.M., and that the group was forced to walk ahead of the soldiers in case of mines. Z.K. also said that towards the end of their detention Serbian soldiers had severely beaten S.G., a former director of the PTT (Yugoslav Post, Telegraph and Telephone) over the course of three days.86
There is some evidence to suggest that not all soldiers were willing to dehumanize their prisoners entirely. Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they were treated better by soldiers than by police or paramilitaries, noting the food that was provided and the more limited use of violence. The experience of nineteen-year-old A.A. from Stutica illustrates the differences in approach. After surviving a mass killing in the woods near Vrbovac that left him wounded in the arm and multiple beatings by paramilitaries in the mosque in Cirez and by police in Glogovac, A.A. was transferred to military custody, and provided medical treatment. He explained what happened after he was taken to Krajkovo on Wednesday May 5: "When we arrived in Krajkovo, they hit me in the same arm [that was wounded]. They took us to some houses there and told us to clean a garage there. It was the place we were supposed to stay. The following day I told them I was wounded. They didn't treat us very badly there-it was not the same as in the police station. In the evening, one of them who was in charge brought a doctor for me. I had been wounded for seven days. The day after (Friday) they took me to the hospital in Pristina. . . . I stayed there for six weeks."87
Glogovac (Gllogofc) Town
The largest town in the Drenica region, Glogovac lies approximately twenty-five kilometers southwest of Pristina. Prior to the outbreak of Kosovo fighting in March 1998, it had a population of approximately 12,000, almost exclusively ethnic Albanians. Although Drenica, as a stronghold of the KLA, was a focal point of conflict throughout 1998 and the beginning of 1999, Glogovac itself, like most towns and cities in Kosovo, was spared any fighting or destruction. The Serbian police always held the town, and the police station was frequently used as a detention center for ethnic Albanians arrested from the surrounding villages, especially during the major government offensive in September 1998.88 Police harassment, arrests, and beatings were commonplace in the period before NATO began bombing on March 25, 1999.
Serbian police and Yugoslav military operations in the villages around Glogovac began almost immediately after the OSCE's Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) left Kosovo on March 19, 1999. Right away, many ethnic Albanians from the rural areas fled or were expelled from their villages and went to Glogovac.89 By the end of April, the influx of displaced persons had swelled the town's population to more than 30,000, and residents were sheltering large numbers of displaced persons in their houses.
While the level of violence against civilians in Glogovac during the NATO airstrikes was lower than that inflicted on villages in the same municipality, eyewitness accounts describe multiple violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the town after the end of March 1999. At least five-and as many as nineteen civilians-were reportedly executed by Serbian police and paramilitary forces in the town. Glogovac's residents were repeatedly harassed by Serbian security forces and suffered detentions, beatings, house-to-house searches, robbery, and extortion. Some private homes, shops and businesses were ransacked, looted, and deliberately burned.90 As with the April 30 offensive in the area of Vrbovac, Baks, and Stutica, the bombing of the Feronikel plant on April 29 seems to have spurred retaliation against the civilian population by Serbian security forces in Glogovac. Over a five-day period beginning on May 1, the majority of the population was expelled from the town and sent toward the Macedonian border.
Accounts from residents indicate a large presence of both Serbian police and paramilitaries. Witness testimony repeatedly referred to armed Serbian men having long hair and long beards, as well as bandanas on their heads and arms. One person said that a few paramilitaries even had UCK patches (Albanian for KLA) on their sleeves as a joke.91 Some Glogovac residents claimed to have seen members of Arkan's Tigers-the notorious paramilitary group run by the late indicted war crimes suspect Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan)-but their claims could not be confirmed.
The only person identifiable by witnesses was a deputy police chief from Glogovac known as Lutka, which means "doll" in Serbian. Lutka's real name is Nebojsa Trajkovic. A known policeman in the town, residents said that he did not behave brutally, unlike many of the paramilitaries, although he was clearly involved in many thefts, and he was a principal organizer of the forced depopulation in early May, telling Albanians that they should "get on the buses or go to Albania by foot."92
Human Rights Watch visited Glogovac on June 25, 1999, nine days after NATO forces had arrived in the town. Many windows had been broken, cars burned, and there had clearly been a great deal of looting. There were approximately fifty burned houses in the town, most of them private homes.
Killing of Civilians
Some civilians were killed in Glogovac itself during the month of April, although the killings were on a much smaller scale than those in the villages. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than fifteen residents of the town, as well as a number of displaced persons from surrounding villages who were sheltering in the town. The majority of the interviewees had knowledge of between four and twelve killings in Glogovac, although one person claimed that nineteen people had been killed. Human Rights Watch has only been able to confirm the killings of Haxhi Selimi, Sokol Saiti, and two men from Banjica village with eyewitness testimony. Most of the killings, witnesses said, were carried out by paramilitaries and police during house-to-house searches and robberies.
Shortly after the March 19 departure of the OSCE from Glogovac (the witness did not know the precise date), the Serbian police killed sixty-year-old Haxhi Selimi and two men displaced from the village of Banjica, according to B.K., a fifty-two-year-old Glogovac resident.93 He explained that Selimi, a displaced person from the village of Negrovce, was among forty people sheltering in his house at the time. Three armed police officers wearing green uniforms with white eagle insignia on their jackets, came to his house at around 10 a.m. One of the officers, who had a moustache and a dark complexion, demanded 2000DM (approximately U.S. $1042), he said, while the men in the house were forced to go outside. Haxhi Selimi was shot seven times by the officer with the moustache at point blank range, according to B.K.. Two of the shots were fired after Selimi had already died, he said. The witness also heard additional shots and later saw the bodies of the two men from Banjica, who were reportedly shot by the same police officer in the yard of a nearby house.
Late in the afternoon of March 28, paramilitaries entered the home of Sokol Saiti in Glogovac, demanding money and valuables. A fifty-three-year-old displaced man from Domanek village, A.H., who was staying near Saiti's house, told Human Rights Watch that the paramilitaries had informed local residents, including him, that they were "Arkan's men."94 They were wearing black uniforms, with black camouflage makeup on their faces, and had bandanas around their heads. According to the man, the paramilitaries then shot Saiti. He told Human Rights Watch, "They shot him in the leg around 6 p.m. They didn't touch him or let anyone give him first aid until he had bled to death. The paramilitaries stayed in his house until he died at 1 a.m." Although he did not witness the shooting, Saiti's neighbor helped bury the man's body later the same day. This man claimed knowledge of an additional twelve killings, although he had not personally witnessed the deaths or seen the bodies.
A forty-four-year-old man from Glogovac, A.G., told Human Rights Watch that two ethnic Albanians were killed in his apartment building. He did not witness the killings, but as paramilitaries were robbing his apartment, he heard the shooting on the floors above. He told Human Rights Watch:
They [paramilitaries] broke into my apartment about 4 p.m. on Friday, April 20. Two of them broke in. We were eighteen people. They were wearing green uniforms. They broke in and shot into the ceiling. Then they said, "All of your money, Deutsche Marks, gold, watches-give it all!" They even took our wedding rings.
We were on the fourth floor. In the other apartment they killed Brahim Shala. Two others went there, and we heard one shot. They said they killed him because he was wearing a plis [the traditional Albanian white cap worn by older men]. On the fifth floor they killed another-Hysen Morina-because he looked at the policeman. We heard the shooting.95
Eight other residents from the town interviewed by Human Rights Watch, three women and five men, claimed knowledge of as many as nineteen civilian killings in Glogovac during late March and April, although they did not witness the deaths or see the bodies. The reported dead included thirty-four-year-old Hysen Morina, reportedly killed by paramilitaries during a robbery; Qazim Kluna (from Poklek); Sokol Hajrizi; and Rahim Krasniqi. At the very least, the residents' claims strongly suggest that further killings did take place during this period, mostly in the context of robberies, extortion and looting. Five of the witnesses said paramilitaries were responsible for the killings.
Detention and Abuse
Throughout the period between the departure of the OSCE and the expulsion of the population in early May, paramilitaries and police made frequent visits to the homes of Glogovac's inhabitants and displaced persons. Until the third week of April, most of these visits were connected with extortion and robbery, although threats of violence helped to intimidate the population, keeping most inside their homes unless it absolutely necessary to leave.
On April 22, the nature of these visits began to change. Over the course of a week, the regular police carried out early morning raids against various neighborhoods in the town, conducting house-to-house searches in which large groups of adult men were separated from their families and taken to the local police station. Almost all of the men were beaten in front of their homes or on the way to the station, and some were forced to sing Serbian nationalist songs.
Although some beatings took place in the police station and in the nearby garage, where many men were held, some detainees also reported that the police in the station generally behaved correctly, and even offered them cigarettes. Most of the detainees were questioned about the KLA and then released after no more than one day in custody. Their treatment is in marked contrast to the treatment of the "Cirez" prisoner group who were detained by the police in Glogovac during the first week of May (see above).
A thirty-five-year-old man from Glogovac was among the first group to be detained. He told Human Rights Watch:
The police came in the morning at 8 a.m. on April 22. . . . They brought everyone out of their houses. . . . They separated men aged between fourteen and sixty from the women, children, and elderly. They put us against a wall and threatened to shoot us, saying, "Shall we shoot them or not shoot them?" Ninety percent of the men were beaten up as they were searched by the police. Then they said to us, "Go to the police station." They put us in a garage at the station . . . [and] said to us, "You are not safe here anymore. From now on the military will take responsibility. . . ." Around 3 p.m. the last person was released. . . . We were asked, "Have you been in the KLA?"96
The searches, beatings, and detentions on April 22 established a pattern that would be repeated throughout the week. On April 24, I.X., a fifty-nine-year-old male resident from the center of Glogovac close to the police station, received a visit. He told Human Rights Watch:
In my house, around ten soldiers and paramilitaries came at 8 a.m. They knocked on the door. [When I opened it] they pointed their automatic rifles at me and told me to put my hands up. They took me outside with my family and checked all of us. . . . They beat up the men and ransacked the house. They hit me twice inside the house, while they were searching the house. My sons were beaten up on the street and taken to the police station.97
Although he was not detained due to his age, and his sons were later released, the message of the visit was clear: "They never let us relax and sleep," I.X. said. "We were always in anticipation of when they were going to come inside."
Some Glogovac residents received visits from the military as well as the police. On April 25, police came to the house of a fifty-six-year-old man, B.B., in Glogovac around 9 a.m. After a weapons sweep, the men were lined up against the wall. The younger men were taken to the police station and beaten. The man subsequently received a second visit from the military. He told Human Rights Watch:
Three or four days after the police came, the military came around at 1 p.m. and harassed us. They took our identification cards and told us to gave 100 Deutsche Marks if we wanted them back. After we paid the money they returned them. Then they checked our pockets.98
The raids and detentions continued on April 28 and 29, the day NATO first bombed the Feronikel plant. A displaced man in his forties from Gornje Obrinje who was staying in the center of Glogovac described what happened to him during an early morning operation:
The police came on the 28th of April around 8 a.m. They searched us _and . . . asked, "Do you have weapons?" They searched our house but they didn't take anything. . . . We [eighty-three men] were taken to the police station at 9 a.m. It was a garage. They put us with our faces against the wall and said, "If you turn around we will shoot you." . . . We were detained until 2 p.m. Other people were held there for three days . . . An inspector from the Ministry of the Interior wearing civilian clothes was asking me questions in Albanian. . . . The deputy chief of police, "Lutka," [Nebojsa Trajkovic] was also present while I was being questioned. He said, "We are leaving and the military are taking our place. If they find you they will execute you immediately."99
Another detainee, R.M., told Human Rights Watch what happened in the police station when the Feronikel plant was bombed. He said:
Around 2 p.m. NATO began bombing Feronikel. We were in a part of the station with cars, and one high official with stars on his shoulders said, "You asked for NATO, and look what they are doing to us." He beat some of us with a shovel handle.100
Another man who was detained on April 30, N.B., explained how he was arrested and how the police responded to his group when the Feronikel plant was struck.
They took me on April 30 at around 8 a.m. I was in my house, and around nine police surrounded the homes in the center. They took men up to sixty years old, altogether about 150 men. They took us to the police station. They beat us on the way with batons and shovels. It was the normal police. We went with our hands on our heads, and we were made to sing Serbian songs. We were put in the car garage. Most of us were released after about one and one-half hours, but about forty people stayed [including myself].
We stayed until the next day around 5 p.m. In the moment when NATO attacked Feronikel, the police got so nervous. They beat some of us. They took me by the hair and slammed my head against the wall. Some people were made to work and clean the station. They were also beaten.
They put us in a room in the cultural center that is near the station. There were forty others there, those who had been taken the day before. They said, "You asked for NATO, and now you've got it." Nine people were taken away for questioning, but they were later released.101
Subsequent events now make it clear that these operations were the prelude to the mass expulsion of the population: by instilling fear among the population, the security forces expedited their forced removal from the town.
To some of Glogovac's residents, the objective of the detentions was made immediately clear. A small group of residents in the center of the town was informed on April 24 that buses would be arriving to take them to Macedonia if they wished to go. They were to be the first group to leave the town, whose residents had been effectively under siege since March 19. One of the residents, a twenty-three-year-old man, had the stark choice made explicitly clear:
On Saturday (April 24) the police came into our house and told everyone to get out. They took me while they searched the rooms, forcing me to kick the doors open. The police hit me and my aunt. . . . They took us into the street. The police [in the street] were even worse. They threatened to kill us. . . . They gathered men from the houses and took us to the police station. There they told us, "There is no more safety in the town. We heard on the news that we are keeping you as hostages. We are going to bring buses and take you to Macedonia if you want to go."102
Around 11:30 a.m. on April 26, the police went door to door in central Glogovac, telling residents that there were two buses going to Macedonia and that they were free to stay or go. The police, who reportedly included Petar Damjanac, the commander of Glogovac police and Nebojsa Trajkovic, the deputy commander known as "Lutka", also told people of their limited options. According to M.S., a twenty-year-old woman resident, "The police chief came with another police officer and said, `We are not forcing you' but, he said, `From now on the military will be in charge of this place.'"103 Approximately two hundred residents were told that their safety could not be guaranteed if they remained, and they were given fifteen minutes to decide whether they wanted to leave. Most decided to go and boarded one of the two waiting buses, paying 50 Deutsche Marks per adult. They were then transported to the Macedonian border without incident, arriving around 4 p.m. the same day. The buses were clearly organized by the Serbian authorities: Several refugees said the way was clear to the border because the buses had a special pass from the Interior Ministry authorizing their safe passage through the multiple roadblocks and checkpoints.
The mass expulsion of Glogovac's residents and displaced persons did not begin until five days later, on May 1. The timing appears to be linked to the NATO attack on the Feronikel plant, and the April 30 offensive against the villages of Vrbovac, Stutica, and Baks (see section on April 30 offensive, above). The pattern established with the early expulsions continued, with organized buses being used to transport thousands of people out of the municipality over a five-day period. Buses went either directly to the Macedonian border or, in some cases, to a railway station near Kosovo Polje for transit to Macedonia. All adults were required to pay 50 Deutsche Marks if they were being taken directly to the border, or 25 Deutsche Marks for transfer to the train. Diesel fuel was also accepted as payment for travel. Again, it was the Glogovac police that were responsible for informing people about the buses and ensuring that they boarded them. Many witnesses identified the deputy police chief known as "Lutka" as the person responsible for organizing the expulsions and informing residents that the police "could no longer guarantee their security," while attempting to emphasize that their decision to leave was "voluntary."
On Saturday, May 1 at 10 a.m., a group of displaced persons from Staro Cikatovo and Poklek paid 50 Deutsche Marks each and boarded buses for Macedonia. According to a fifty-three-year-old displaced man from Domanek, A.H., that same day, white armored Land Rovers with loudspeakers were announcing further departures on the following day, with the message: "We cannot defend you, but your way to the border will be open, and no one will touch you." The next morning the man made his way to the center of the town and boarded one of an estimated twenty-five buses that left at around 10 a.m. 104 A seventy-three-year-old displaced man from Gladno Selo told Human Rights Watch that he left on the same day under similar circumstances.
The following morning, Monday, May 3, police visited apartment buildings in the town. According to a seventeen-year-old boy: "Those of us who had apartments in Glogovac didn't want to leave. . . . [but] they entered by force and told us to get out because the military needed the apartments."105 When the boy came out of the building with his family, buses were waiting. Two other witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch left the same day.
The clearance of apartment buildings continued on May 4, according to H.M., a forty-six-year-old man from Glogovac. He told Human Rights Watch, "The police came into the building at 9 a.m. They were going building by building. They indicated with their hands that we had to leave. There was a deputy commander with the name "Lutka," who was responsible for the evacuation."106
A fifty-six-year-old Glogovac resident who was transferred to the train near Kosovo Polje on the same day had a similar account.
They [the police] were going through the streets and shouting at around 9 or 10 a.m. "Go out as soon as possible, go to the bus station to take the bus," they said. So we took some food for the children and some clothes and left the house. At the bus station they were putting us in the buses in lines by neighborhood. The buses were shuttling to Milosevo (near Kosovo Polje), and from there people went by train. We had to pay 25 Deutsche Marks per person for a ticket for adults. We arrived in Milosevo around 5 p.m. We were told to get off the bus, and the police put us on the train immediately. They didn't let us go left or right-we had to go straight to the train. We waited for two hours there. We had no problems after that except that they put twenty people in one compartment-it was very crowded. . . . There were police escorts on the train . . .107
Statements from other witnesses who left on May 4 corroborate these accounts. A.H., a fifty-nine-year-old man from Glogovac (originally from Domanek) who left the same day, was told by the police: "`Whoever has diesel can go.' I had fifteen liters in my tractor, so they let me go on the bus. Otherwise they wanted 50 Deutsche Marks."108 Another man who was displaced from Gornje Obrinje described seeing "fifteen buses in an open area [in Glogovac]. There were more than a thousand people there."109